Tunnel Vision. When Life Goes Dark.

Tunnel Vision. It’s not always seen as a good thing, especially in our current society where so many call for having an “open mind” and a “broad view”. Tunnel vision is being so focused on one singular item that you miss the capacious view, it can be hazardous! In fact, some define it as, “defective sight”. It prevents you from properly seeing anything other than what’s at the center. You end up missing other threats and even peripheral blessings. It’s part of our “flight or fight” mechanism - it accompanies stress!

Icicles dangle like stalactites from a stony tunnel not far from my home. In the midst of darkness, we have to keep our eyes focused on the light. We need tunnel vision!

But over the past few months tunnel vision has actually been my salvation. My wife and I began a long journey, against our wills, in August. In my last post (The Old, Unwanted Visitor), I shared our current struggle with my wife having cancer. The best way I can describe it is like this: We found ourselves in a tunnel that we had to go through, there was absolutely no choice in the matter. There was light at the end but it was a very long, dark, frightening tunnel. Until this, I’d really enjoyed tunnels, they were on my bucket list!

Two years ago I took a trip out to Long Island on my motorcycle to visit my aunt. For some strange reason I really wanted to ride through the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. I’d gone through them in cars, but there was an allure for my bike. After many cautions by concerned citizens, which I tossed to the wind, away I went. Even though the air is completely replenished every 90 seconds in the tunnels, they still offer an odor that most prefer to avoid. But there I was zipping along 90 feet beneath the Hudson River with a smile on my face you couldn’t slap off. And when I saw the sun again I was a bit sad. What a great ride! I even did it again on my way home!

Over the past few months with my wife and chemo, that light-at-the-end, at times, was barely a pin point; the darkness has been so encompassing. The tunnel has not been a fun place - definitely not a “bucket list” item. In the darkness there were often unpleasant sneers, unkind and evil thoughts and glum “possibilities”. Yet, we continued to intentionally focus our thoughts and eyes on the light trying desperately to ignore the hardships of the darkness. “If we can just get through this”, we frequently thought. There were moments when my gaze would be caught by the mystery of the inky darkness and I would stare, captivated. It would often woo me towards despair and dreams of even darker days. It was always cold and unforgiving and I could feel it creep over my soul like a hairy tarantula on the back of my neck. It was in these times that I learned that tunnel vision isn’t always a bad thing.

There he was, actually walking on water! Was this truly happening? In an instant the reality of the unreal was drenched by the realness of the actual. The fierce wind that drove the waves spat at him in defiance. And in that insult, he began to sink. The object of his affection was no longer the object of his eyes and the promise that was just given was washed away in the water. The Apostle Peter, in a test for the validity of Jesus, had asked to be invited onto the waves where Jesus was walking. Jesus obliged but Peter wound up sinking like a stone.

Peter needed tunnel vision, a rapt, focus on Jesus! But I don’t blame him, do you? When life is harsh and brutal it’s easy to get our eyes focused on that which snarls and snaps at us. Hell no longer whispers, it screeches unfaithfulness in our face. Sometimes coming so close, so near that we can smell it, like venom dripping from serpent’s fangs. None of us are immune to tunnels. They’re part of the war we’re born into - the battle for life and soul for faith and freedom.

But this is what I’ve learned through our travel through this tunnel. When life goes dark, when we find ourselves beaten and dismayed - or even well on the way - Jesus beckons lovingly to us in His power. “Come to me all who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest”, he says in Matthew 11:28. It was the voice of Jesus that kept us focused on the light so we wouldn’t be consumed by the dark. It was the power of Jesus that we trusted to get us through that which could’ve devoured us. And quite often, that power looked like three blonde women bringing gifts and dinner to our house. Or men embracing me with a strong hug and a quiet reassurance. The power of Jesus through people was one of the most memorable moments in this tunnel.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
— Matthew 11:28-30

And even now, at the end of this tunnel, we can see yet another one coming - surgery. But it’s okay now. We’ve been loved, held and taught by the God of Peace to keep our eyes on Him. We’ve learned that tunnel vision is good in the darkness of the night. And contrary to popular and pessimistic belief, the light isn’t an approaching train, it’s the loving God. If we keep our eyes focused on Jesus, the wind and waves, the screeches and screams will never sway you from doing the impossible, as you go through your tunnel.

Do you have a tunnel you’ve been through? Share it with us. We’d love to know the lessons you’ve learned.